Issues In Kashamu’s Extradition | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

Business, Law

Issues In Kashamu’s Extradition

Posted: May 7, 2015 at 4:15 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

The planned extradition of a chieftain of Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Buruji Kashamu to the United States of America for trial on alleged drug related crime has been a reoccurring decimal with many court cases both internally and in other jurisdictions. Senior Correspondent, TUNDE OPESEITAN, in this report, traces the history of the drug crime and the numerous court cases.    

Buruji Kashamu was on March 28, 2015 elected as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He was elected to represent the good people of Ogun East at the Upper Legislative Chambers come the next political dispensation. But ever since his election, and even before, he has been virtually sentenced to perpetual fear of extradition to the United States to face charges in connection with alleged importation of prohibited narcotics between 1993 and 1995.

Buruji Kashamu

Buruji Kashamu

Trouble started for Kashamu when he maneuvered his way to become a prominent figure in the PDP and soon high-jacked the party structure from those he met there, starting with Ogun State, from where he moved to the South West geo-political zone.

Buruji himself started the judicial battle to save himself from extradition when he filed a fundamental human rights enforcement suit before a Federal High Court in Lagos. He filed the suit before Justice Okechukwu Okeke (now retired), when he got wind of plans by the Federal Government to transport him to the United States to face trial for the said drug offence.

Justice Okeke had specifically granted a perpetual injunction restraining the Attorney–General of the Federation (AGF) from making any order under Section 6(2) of the Extradition Act for the arrest, committal or surrender of Kashamu at the instance of the United States Government.

The extradition move was said to have been informed by Kashamu’s indictment before a US District court for an alleged drug-related offences.

However, Justice Okeke’s judgment was set aside by a three-man panel of the Appeal Court in Lagos.

The appellate court further vacated an order of perpetual injunction restraining the AGF from entertaining or making any order whatsoever in respect of any request by the US government for the surrender of the applicant in respect of the said alleged drug related offences.

The unanimous decision of Appeal Court setting aside the said orders was delivered by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa and was supported by Justices Joseph Ikyegh and Chinwe Iyizoba respectively.

The decision was sequel to an appeal filed by the federal government challenging the decision of Justice Okeke.

In the appeal, which was argued on behalf of the Federal Government by Emeka Ngige (SAN), the government had complained that Justice Okeke erred in law by relying on hearsay and speculative evidence in granting Kashamu several reliefs including an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Nigerian government from entertaining any request from the US government on issue of drug related offence in the US.

Kashamu had, in one of the paragraphs in the affidavit supporting his summons, alleged that “I was therefore surprised to be informed by a law enforcement officer, whose identity I must keep confidential for his security, on July 20, 2010 at about 9:a.m. in Lagos, that the US government had submitted a request at the offices of the respondent seeking my extradition on the basis of the very indictment I have applied to the US court to set aside and in spite of the judgments of the British courts mentioned above.”

But while holding that the appeal was meritorious, Justice Salauwa held that: “It is trite, that testimony, either oral or by way of an affidavit, by a witness or party who relates not what he knows personally, but what others have said, is generally unreliable, and inadmissible under the  rules of evidence.

“As a matter of general principle, no assertion offered as testimony (orally or in averment) can be relied upon by the court, unless it is or has been open to test by cross-examination.

“And the reason being that such statements amounting to hearsay are either not made under oath, or are not subject to cross examination at all….From the very nature and circumstances of the instant case, there is every cogent reason for me to believe, that the allegations contained in the affidavit in support of the originating summons are a hoax, a smoke screen and rather a hearsay.”

The appeal court also faulted the trial judge for allowing the case to be tried by way of originating summons despite the fact that the affidavit evidence in support of the case were highly contentious and hostile in nature.

However, after the judgment, Kashamu filed another application before the Appeal Court and urged the leadership of the court to set up another panel to hear the extradition appeal.

Kashamu had predicated his application on the ground that the judgment of the Justice Salauwa-led panel was made without jurisdiction because he had earlier sponsored a petition against members of the panel in another matter.

But in response, Ngige urged the court to dismiss the application describing it as mischievous and abuse of court process.

Eventually, the application was granted by the Appeal Court leadership, while a new panel comprising of Justices Isa Akeju (presiding), Adu Aboki and Ibrahim Shata, was inaugurated.

While that was going on, the extradition process suffered set back, and many other things happened until another Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, sitting in Illinois, United States threw out Kashamu’s  application to stop the request for his extradition, thus declaring him a fugitive wanted in America for trial for alleged drug-related offences.

Presiding judge of the court, Justice Charles R. Norgle, while delivering judgment in an application by Kashamu for a Writ of Mandamus, refused to quash an indictment issued against Kashamu as the court held that the indictment against him had no expiration date.

“Should he ever come to the United States, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, he could be put on trial in the Federal District Court in Chicago, since the indictment has no expiration date.

“An original indictment remains pending until it is dismissed or until double jeopardy or due process would forbid prosecution under it,” the court held.

Kashamu had been charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Chicago, along with 13 others, with conspiracy to import heroin into the United States and distribute it, in violation of 21 U.S.C. S 963.

He was also indicted both in his own name and under what the government believed to be two pseudo-names that he used, namely “Alaji” and “Kasmal”.

However, few months after the ruling, Kashamu again on May 4, 2015 filed another suit before a Federal High Court in Lagos where he accused former President Olusegun Obasanjo of working in concert with others to mastermind his arrest during his swearing-in as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Kashamu alleged in the suit that Obasanjo had concluded plans for him to be transported to the United States in a private plane to face trial before Judge Norgle on drug related crime.

Kashamu stated that Obasanjo was desperate to deny him the opportunity of enjoying the mandate freely given to him to represent the people of Ogun East Senatorial District in the Senate.

In his fundamental human rights enforcement suit against the Chairman, National Drug Laws Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and 11 others, Kashamu prayed the court for an order to stop the alleged plot to extradite him to the United States.

He also wants a declaration of the court that the move  to abduct and forcibly transport him to the United States of America amounted to a violation of his right to liberty, freedom of association and freedom of movement as protected by Sections 35, 40 and 41 of the Constitution.

Kashamu urged the court to declare as unlawful, the alleged collusion between the 12 respondents and his political opponents, led by Obasanjo, to abduct and forcibly transport him to the US.

Apart from the NDLEA Chairman, also joined as respondents in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/505/15 are the Inspector General of Police;  Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; Director General, Department of State Service; the Interpol National Central Bureau; and the Attorney General of the Federation.

Others are the Clerk of the National Assembly; National Security Adviser to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Nigeria Customs Services; Nigeria Immigration Service, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

The senator-elect, in the fresh suit, is seeking an order of the court directing the police IG to “provide a security detail of at least six armed police officers to protect the applicant at all times of the day and to prevent (him from) any attack or abduction.”

He also prayed for a court order directing the clerk of the National Assembly “to accord the applicant every facility, right and privileges due to a senator-elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria until he takes his oath of office and thereafter as is due to a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

He prayed the court to restrain all the respondents and their agents from preventing him from entering the National Assembly hall.

Kashamu, in a 92-paragraph affidavit deposed to by himself, explained that though he was incarcerated in Brixton Prisons in London between 1998 and January 10, 2013, he was however later discharged after Judge Tim Workman held that “the allegations of the US authorities against me with regards to importation of narcotics to the US was a case of mistaken identity.”

According to Kashamu, the judge had held that there was no prima facie case that Kashamu was the same person as one Alaji, who had been  implicated by a group of drug traffickers apprehended in the US.

Kashamu exhibited a portion of the claimed judgement where the judge said he found that Kashamu had a brother, Alhaji Adewale Adeshina Kasamu, who bore a striking resemblance with him and who was the real co-conspirator in the said drug importation case in the US.

He said that after his release, he returned to Nigeria and started business, adding that some lawsuits were later instituted against him in respect of debts owed to banks by his businesses, especially his cotton-ginning business in Cotonou, the Republic of Benin.

He, however, said he was lured into politics by members of PDP in Ogun State, who were impressed by his philanthropic gestures through his “Omo-Ilu Foundation.”

But he said in the course of his political career, he made some “powerful enemies” including Obasanjo, with whom he fell apart because of his stand for internal democracy in the PDP.

He claimed that recently, Obasanjo had been pressurizing the AGF to take steps to extradite him to the US even without a request from the US authorities.

He alleged that his lawyer, Prince Ajibola Oluyede, told him in October, 2014 that Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), who was very close to the AGF, told Oluyede of a discussion in his presence between Obasanjo and the AGF, where Obasanjo boasted that he was making arrangements with some US officials in the region to have Kashamu abducted and flown in a private plane to the US.

Kashamu said he confirmed the plot himself through discreet enquiries.

Trial judge, Justice Okon Abang has adjourned till May 8, 2015 to take Kashamu’s fundamental rights enforcement application and the respondents’ preliminary objections.